The Boardman JNR Hybrid 26in Wheel is a bike with geometry well suited to children and with a light-enough build to not limit your youngster's cycling fun. With good quality disc brakes and a wide-ranging cassette, it also has all the go-and-slow it needs – and in a form that can be easily operated by small hands. The Boardman's also well up there with the bikes in our best kids' bikes buyer's guide.
The key things about a child's bike is that it has to be fun to ride – and the easiest way to make that happen is to keep the weight down. Bright colours and cartoon character logos may well increase the likelihood of a bike sale, but if it rides like a tank it'll remain in the shed.
Boardman has focused on that with the JNR Hybrid range. Its 11.5kg weight may not sound featherweight, but in reality, the aluminium alloy frameset feels nimble.
My 10-year-old son has been riding the JNR and watching him in the woods, on the road or riding on the pump track I could see that he found the Boardman nicely balanced and controllable.
The front end is light enough that he could hop the wheel up onto a high kerb, and when riding off road he was able to stand out of the saddle and let the bike ride over bumps or tree roots.
The bike's reasonable weight even makes a difference on climbs. The spread of gears helps, but with the bike not feeling sluggish he was happy to get out of the saddle to tackle the long drags.
The Boardman feels lighter than some of the cheap steel offerings he'd ridden before, so he didn't feel like he was being held back by the JNR. His exact words were 'It felt rewarding' once we had reached the top of draggy climb when he was exposed to a tough wind on Salisbury Plain.
The geometry works well too. The bike is designed for children from 136-154cm tall, around nine to 12 years old according to Boardman.
The frame looks long compared to an adult's bike, but when paired to the very short stem my son found the reach was spot on, and he looked to have a lot of confidence in the handling when descending whether that was quickly on a smooth surface or when focused on more technical off-road sections.
In fact, the JNR looked as though it tracked nicely with the handling being well balanced and non-twitchy; the length of the wheelbase adds to that composure.
Frame & Fork
The JNR 26" has a triple-butted aluminium frame. This means that the tubes have differing wall thicknesses along their length – thicker to take higher stresses at the ends where they're welded, and thinner towards the centre of the tubes to allow some flex for comfort.
We're only talking tenths of a millimetre here, but triple butting is something we normally only see on higher-end adult road bikes, so it's great that Boardman has made the effort here.
The welding has a smooth finish to it throughout and the matt paintjob does exactly what you want it to do on a child's bike – stand up to plenty of abuse.
All the cables run externally, which makes it easy for parents to fettle, adjust and replace them, and the threaded square taper bottom bracket hasn't shown any reliability issues in the mud- and salt-covered roads and trails Charlie was riding on.
The fork has aluminium blades paired with a steel steerer, which is lighter than an all-steel fork.
You'll find mounting points on the frame for a bottle cage, and it'll even take full mudguards and a rack too.
So mini-bikepacking is well catered for.
The Boardman JNR gearing comes courtesy of Microshift's Advent rear derailleur and shifter.
The 1x setup means your child only needs to use one hand to change gear, and it's sized well for smaller hands.
Shifts to a larger gear use the index finger, with a thumb-shifter changing to a lower gear. All the while your child has their hands on the bar for stability and safe cycling.
Neither lever requires a huge amount of pressure, and they are much easier to use than the Gripshift setup used on a lot of children's bikes.
The 9-speed 11-42T cassette is paired with a basic Prowheel chainset with a 32T chainring. The result is a genuinely good spread of gears, if perhaps a little gappy at times.
The disc brakes are a welcome addition.
The Tektro levers are again designed for smaller hands, which are paired to Clarks callipers and 160mm front and rear rotors.
The result is braking with good levels of bite whether it's wet or dry, which is just what your kid needs.
The rest of the components are basic aluminium stuff, which should stand up to plenty of abuse. The 580mm handlebar keeps the steering neutral and has a slight rise for a bit more height.
The stem is 50mm in length from the steerer cap centre to the centre of the bar.
The seatpost is secured by a quick-release lever, which makes it easy to adjust, and at 270mm there's plenty of length on offer.
My son had no issues with the Boardman-branded saddle.
The 26in wheels have double-walled aluminium rim paired to alloy hubs, both of which are laced with 28-spokes.
It seems to be a tough build too, as we had no issues with trueness throughout testing, and as with most children, the lad doesn't have much in the way of mechanical sympathy, so it's fair to say they weren't treated with the proverbial kid gloves.
The 1.5in VEE Speedster tyres have a relatively smooth centre section, so they roll quickly on smoother surfaces with a slight shoulder tread for a little bit of off-road bite.
They are fine for road use or on the trails in summer when things are dry and firm. There is room for some knobbly tyres though should you want to upgrade for the winter.
At £420 I consider Boardman's JNR 26in to be good value. You can pick up much cheaper bikes off-the-shelf in many shops, but Boardman has balanced a good price, a high-quality, good-looking frame, a low weight and decent finishing kit.
Giant's ARX 26 is a little pricier at £445 and has an aluminium alloy frame and fork, but gets an 8-speed groupset and rim brakes rather than discs. I tested the 24in version, which I thought was a well-made, smart-looking machine.
Frog Bikes are a popular choice for many aspiring cyclists. Its Frog 69 is a 26in-wheel hybrid with an aluminium frame and fork, comes with an 8-speed groupset and has mudguards fitted.
It has rim brakes rather than discs, and at £510 the Frog is a little more expensive.
Overall, Boardman's JNR 26in offers good value for money for a bike that is very capable, good quality and fun to ride. The components are well specced for the money too.
Lightweight and fun to ride says the kid, good value says the parent
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Make and model: Boardman JNR Hybrid Bike - 26 inch Wheel
Size tested: 26 inch wheel
List the components used to build up the bike.
Headset: Semi-Integrated FSA No.10P Aheadset
Bottom Bracket: FSA. - BB-7420ST
Rear Derailleur: Microshift M6195M 9 Speed
Shifter: Microshift SL-M8195 Advent 9 Speed
Cassette: Microshift CS-H093 9 Speed 11-42 Tooth
Cranks: Prowheel 32 Tooth - 150mm crank and double chainguard
Chain: KMC Z9
Brake Lever: TEKTRO RS360
Front Brake: Clarks CMD-23 Mechanical Disc Brake - 160mm Rotor
Rear Brake: Clarks CMD-23 Mechanical Disc Brake - 160mm Rotor
Handlebar: Boardman JNR Alloy - 25.4mm - 580mm wide
Seat Post: Boardman JNR Alloy 25.4mm x 300mm
Stem: Boardman JNR Alloy 50mm - 10 degree rise
Saddle: Boardman JNR
Pedals: Wellgo 9/16"
Hubs: Formula Alloy QR
Rims: Double Wall Alloy
Tyres: Vee Rubber, Speedster 26 x 1.5"
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Boardman says: "If they aren't already, cycling confidence and skills will soon be second nature on the JNR 26". Cycling and the bike will be a way to open up the world further still, a slice of independence, a way to connect with friends (in the real world), get to and from places under their own power, to school and back or just a way to burn off some of that boundless energy.
The JNR 26" is the culmination of our flat bar junior range. Sleek, lightweight and confidence-inspiring, yet practical and versatile. Powerful cable disc brakes complement the fast and predictable handling of the lightweight aluminium frame, which benefits from a rear rack and mudguard mounts front and rear.
The JNR 26" is a premium adult bike, just in a smaller size."
It's a good quality bike and, most importantly, it's light.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
Boardman's JNR range starts with a 12in balance bike, and also includes 14in, 20in and 24in hybrid bikes. Alongside this 26in Hybrid there is also a 26in JNR ADV, which is a drop-bar gravel bike that costs £480.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are well made with smooth welds and a hardy paintjob.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: Lightweight triple-butted, smooth-weld aluminium
Fork: 1-1/8in triple-butted, smooth-weld aluminium blades with chromoly steel steerer
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is well suited to a child's physiology.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Height and reach are well within the child's height limits suggested by Boardman.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Overall comfort was good, which is helped by its large volume 1.5in diameter tyres.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
There didn't seem to be any issues with stiffness when my son was riding out of the saddle on climbs.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The balanced handling inspires confidence when being ridden on tricky terrain or when descending.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The wide tyres help comfort, and my son got on with the shape of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
There are a good spread of gear ratios, which helps on the climbs as well as on the flat.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The drivetrain has a good range of gears, and the shifters are easy to use with smaller hands.
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
They are a tough set of wheels that stood up to general abuse well.
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Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Good tyres for general riding with decent levels of grip and rolling resistance.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Basic kit but effective. The wide handlebar contributes to the neutral handling.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It comes in slightly chepaer than the Frog and Giant mentioned in the review – though neither of those options offer disc brakes.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
A well-specced bike for the money with geometry and components well suited to the age group it is intended for.
Age: 44 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
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